"Bright Young Talent" - Harlequins Hopeful Jessie Raising Money for Her ACL Surgery - Ruck

“Bright Young Talent” – Harlequins Hopeful Jessie Raising Money for Her ACL Surgery

After suffering a devastating anterior cruciate ligament injury, one of the brightest young talents in England’s age group system has had to put her early career on hold. Jessica Ricca-Maggs is a cherished member of Worthing RFC’s U16s set-up, and is raising money for her ACL surgery, that has kept her out of the sport for seven months and counting.

A devoted Harlequins fan, Ricca-Maggs is hopeful to one day emulate her heroes and run out in the famous quarters at the Twickenham Stoop. With the likes of Ellie Kildunne and Lagi Tuima as her inspiration, Jessie is trying to raise the required funding to get herself back out on the pitch. Having been side-lined since April, the endless waiting times and uncertain updates have given Jessie and her father Phil no option, but to pursue a private, yet far more costly operation.

Credit: Phil Maggs

With a quoted cost of £13,800 for the ACL surgery, Jessie, and her parents Steph and Phil have set up a GoFundMe donations page in order to help the talented winger get the long awaited procedure. Currently at just over £2,000 (at time of writing), there is still a fair way to go before the surgery can go ahead.

Speaking exclusively to Ruck, Jessie and Phil recalled how the incident happened. The young winger was volunteering to make up the numbers for Brixham RFC, who were in need of players for a Leicester Tigers organised tournament.

“I was at a game, helping out another team they’d brought up in the competition. Going against different places in Sussex.” Jessie said.

“I had the ball, and I was about two metres from the try-line, and I was changing directions and someone stood on my boat.” Jessie said. “So my body went one way and my legs stayed in the same place just heard it pop and fell over.”

Credit: Ben West

“Brixham RFC based in Devon, were short on players, so they only had half numbers and contacted the club and a few of Worthing U14’s joined in.” Phil added.

Jessie is undergoing a 12 month recovery period, and is receiving treatment from ACL specialist physio Ben Saldivar on her return to play. Saldivar was recommended by a Worthing Town footballer, who has made a full recovery from the same brutal injury. Speaking about her ongoing recovery, Saldivar said;

“Look at it as an opportunity. When will other girls in rugby her age be able to get 9+ months of sport conditioning, whilst studying her performance. I agree it’s almost like having a program written for her to help her as a sports athlete, something she is on board with. 

“It will change her mindset, make her mentally and physically stronger and by the end of it we truly believe she will be a better player than she would be without their assistance.”

Credit: Phil Maggs

Due to the injury, Jessie has been unable to take her desired school subjects with her GCSE selections on the horizon. A keen sportswoman, Jessie’s first choice was to pursue the GCSE PE curriculum, however due to the intense practical element of the course, she was turned away by the examining board as a result of her injury. This has taken a toll on Jessie’s school days, yet she perseveres through having surveyed the alternative options, which includes a course in Sports Studies.

Credit: Ben West

A potential route would then hopefully follow into the Harlequins Academy, with Jessie’s dream destination being at Worthing College. The institution has produced a host of talented Quins stars, with the latest to receive contracts being back row Sophie Stafford and scrum half Grace Clavering. Jessie talked about her favourite players, and how she’s been inspired by the former Worthing stars, who often come back and visit their old club.

“Yeah, I think seeing Harriet (Millar-Mills) and Sophie (Stafford), they played at Worthing, and they come down to the club quite a lot. So I’ve spoken to them a bit about my injury and I actually did a couple of training sessions with them. But yeah, (Holly) Aitchison and (Ellie) Kildunne probably (Jessie’s favourite players).”

Ellie Kildunne of Harlequins with fans after the game – Mandatory by-line: Juan Gasparini/JMP – 13/05/2023 – RUGBY – Twickenham Stoop – London, England – Harlequins Women v Wasps Women – Allianz Premier 15s

“Sophie and Grace, they played in the (Worthing) U18s a couple of seasons ago, and they’re in Harlequins now. And when I went to Worthing (College) open day this year, they were there, obviously at the college.”

Tim Mackew, chair of Worthing Rugby Football Club has said that “Jess is one of the brightest young developing talents that Rugby Union has seen” and has “the ability, ambition and work ethic to achieve professional rugby status at the highest level”.

“I mean it’s hard for a kid isn’t it. They don’t like praise” Phil added, as he discussed his daughter’s rapid rise to prominence in little over two seasons. “You give them anything and it’s embarrassing.”

Credit: Ben West

“She has raw talent, she’s a good player. Obviously, it’s just developing the skills further on, which now has been a bigger hurdle, because of the injury. Her coaches have said she’s been missed this season.”

“It’s different things, and different skills (that Jessie is good at). There are some good players down at the rugby club. I think (there is) quite a few more to move on to the Harlequins Academy at Worthing, they do take up quite a few players from the Worthing club.”

The injury has been an obvious step back for Jess, yet she took great comfort when a top name of the Red Roses reached out with a donation. Saracens and England back-row Poppy Cleall shared the young player’s story, as the extent of the injury resonated with the 2021 World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year Nominee.

Poppy Cleall of England Women on the break into Les Elder of New Zealand Women during the autumn international match between England Women and New Zealand Women at Sandy Park on 31 Oct 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“I didn’t realise that she would have seen it, until one day she re-posted it on her twitter, that fact that she’s even seen it is cool.” Jessie said.

“I messaged her to say thank you”. Phil added. “She responded, and she was supportive again, she said about her sister (Bryony) having an injury when she was 17, when her parents had to pay for it privately, back then, and then saying how well she’s done.

“So definitely possible to have big injury, put all your time and effort back into the sport and make it into a success.”

Credit: Phil Maggs

In her time away from playing, Jessie has been continuing to help out around the club and has taken up a role with the Under 5s coaching team. A supported face all around the club, Worthing RFC are set for a January swim on the English south coast (date TBC), to blow away the New Year’s cobwebs and raise money towards Jessie’s ACL surgery.

So if you can, please spare a donation in helping a talented young women’s rugby prospect, through the Go Fund Me page here.